By David Gale
From blackboards to fiber-optic boards, technology is changing the way Americans learn.
In colonial times, American children used small slate tablets for schoolwork.
The slate board was an amazing, versatile tool for learning.
On its hard surface, students could work out math problems, fine-tune English skills and compose works of art.
By the 1800s, slate boards had given rise to large blackboards in classrooms across the country.
In the 1840s, an educator named William A. Alcott visited more than 20,000 schoolhouses in the New England area.
“A blackboard, in every school house,” Alcott wrote, “is as indispensably necessary as a stove or fireplace.”
Aside from the occasional ear-piercing screech and piles of powdery chalk dust, blackboards were effective, interactive displays perfectly suited to teach all in the classroom.
Today”s technology-driven learning environment has given rise to new digital displays with the capacity for more interactive instruction than ever before.
The most current technology incorporates all the capabilities of old blackboards with the best the Web can provide.
BYU has ridden the wave of classroom interactivity.
110 interactive classrooms now exist on campus, said Keven Williamson, product manager of multimedia labs.
These tech-rooms all feature projectors and the latest media technology.
VCR and DVD players, along with Internet connections, allow instructors to move beyond overhead projectors and dusty chalkboards.
PowerPoint presentations, with video and sound clips, change passive learning into something more interactive.
It is definitely a concept BYU believes in because the university has spent approximately $20,000 on each tech-room.
“These rooms provide a better model for teaching, based on the needs of faculty and students,” Williamson said.
The first tech-room was installed in 2000, and the university anticipates adding 10 to 12 more this year.
In addition to BYU”s tech-rooms, other possibilities exist.
3M released the Ideaboard, an interactive display designed for business meetings.
The 60-inch board shows anything the instructor writes on it.
Images, sound, video or anything else stored on a computer connected to the Ideaboard can be projected onto the giant screen.
Smart Technologies introduced what they call an interactive whiteboard.
Camfire, a 4-by-8-foot whiteboard, comes with two color digital cameras mounted on a tripod.
These cameras allow professors to write information on a whiteboard and have it projected onto a larger screen.
BYU has several such boards on campus.